High blood pressure: The seemingly healthy ingredient that raises high blood pressure
High blood pressure – a process whereby the force of blood pushing against your arteries is consistently too high – can cause your arteries to lose their stretchiness and narrow. “The narrowing makes it easier for fatty material (atheroma) to clog them up,” warns the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Over time, this mechanism can cause a blockage, hiking your risk of having a heart attack.
“Tomatoes and tomato-based sauces also have a lot of added salt when they come in a can or jar,” warns Durham Nephrology Associates, a medical group that specialises in high blood pressure.
It is wiser to opt for low sodium varieties or use fresh tomatoes, advises the health body.
Other culprits to watch out for include:
- Canned soups are top offenders. If you find yourself craving soup, consider making your own with a low sodium recipe or look for low and reduced-sodium canned options. This includes packaged broths.
- Frozen pizzas with thick crusts and lots of toppings are especially high in sodium.
- Frozen seafood and meats may also have added salt.
Prepared food from the deli or refrigerated section of your local grocery store can also have his salt content, so read labels.
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How does salt raise blood pressure?
A high salt diet disrupts the natural sodium balance in the body.
“This causes the body to retain water, which increases the pressure of the pushing of blood against the vessel walls,” explains Action on Salt, a group concerned with salt and its effects on health.
“As a nation, if we can cut one gram of salt from our average daily salt intake, there would be approximately 6,000 fewer deaths from strokes and heart attacks each year in the UK.”
Adults in the UK are recommended to eat less than six grams (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful.
Other key dietary tips
“Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables also helps lower blood pressure,” notes the NHS.
According to the health body, regularly drinking too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure over time.
Staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.
UK health guidelines state:
- Men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
As the NHS points out, alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight and can further increase your blood pressure.
How to get your blood pressure checked
High blood pressure does not usually have any symptoms, so the only way to find out if you have it is to get your blood pressure checked.
You can ask for a blood pressure check – you do not have to wait to be offered one.
Blood pressure testing is available:
- At your GP surgery – by a GP, practice nurse, healthcare assistant or self-service machine
- At some pharmacies
- At an NHS Health Check appointment offered to adults aged 40 to 74 in England
- In some workplaces
- At a health event.
You can also test your blood pressure at home using a home testing kit.
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